Growing up, diabetes wasn’t something Shelby heard about often until her father received his life-altering diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. Yet, more than 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and 90-95% of them live with type 2 (Source).

“Throughout his life, my dad didn’t take the best care of himself. Shortly after his diagnosis, I realized how this lack of self-care impacted his health,” she shares. “The next several years were extremely difficult watching someone I love, who was once seemingly healthy, cope with severe diabetes complications and ultimately reach the point of being unable to feed himself.”

What began as neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes), quickly escalated to Shelby’s dad needing vascular arterial swapping surgery. As part of the year-long recovery, the family’s home was converted to be handicap accessible and adapted to better support his medical needs.

“Unfortunately, by the time my dad received his diagnosis, the disease was too advanced,” Shelby said. “Following surgery, he lost circulation to his leg resulting in amputation above the knee, shortly before passing away.”

After losing her father, Shelby’s family history of type 2 diabetes continued to unfold.

“In my family, diabetes wasn’t something we talked about as there was a bit of shame associated with it,” she shared. “As my paternal grandmother aged, we found out she also had the condition, and my brother was eventually diagnosed as well.”

Recognizing her increased odds of getting the condition, with both her parent and sibling having type 2 diabetes, (Source), Shelby was motivated to take ownership of her own health and better understand the risks of prediabetes, which occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed.

Without lifestyle changes, adults and children with prediabetes may begin experiencing the long-term damage of diabetes to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

“Conditions like type 2 not only affect the individual; but, the entire family,” Shelby said. “Seeing what my mom endured caring for my dad and what I experienced as the primary caregiver for my grandmother, the physical, emotional and financial burden truly takes a toll on everyone.”

More than 96 million or 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, with more than 80% of individuals not knowing they have it (Source). Despite being a precursor to type 2 diabetes, about 9 in 10 cases can be avoided by making lifestyle changes (Source). For Shelby, the lifestyle changes started small and eventually grew into habit.

“For me, change started with setting realistic expectations,” she shared. “The gym just isn’t my thing, so I would do other things to increase my physical activity like going on a longer walk or taking the stairs versus the elevator to get in more steps.”

Outside of regular exercise and eating healthy, the prevention of type 2 diabetes goes beyond an individual’s behavior. Social determinants of health (SDOH) also play a role, and directly impact a person’s health, well-being, and quality of life. SDOH are the conditions in the environment where people are born, live, work, etc. that influence a wide range of health functioning and quality of life outcomes (Source). One of the top priority areas identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is healthcare access and quality as many people in the United States don’t seek out healthcare services (Source).

“My dad hardly ever went to the doctor, which may have helped us to diagnose him sooner,” she shares. “That’s why I’ve been doing a little bit each day to keep myself on the right path to prevention, such as attending all preventative screenings.”

Inspired by her loved ones and recognizing the opportunity she has, Shelby reinforces her commitment to taking small steps each day toward prevention.

 “The thing about type 2 is we all have a chance to prevent it,” she said. “So, what steps will you take?”